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There’s a lot of attention paid to stem-cell injections for osteoarthritis of the knee, but much less to stem-cell injections used to treat shoulder problems. Regenexx recently published the world’s largest registry experience with precisely guided stem-cell injections for conditions including severe osteoarthritis of the shoulder and rotator cuff tears. Here’s a quick rundown of that new work.

Unlike knee replacement, shoulder-replacement surgery is known for relatively poor outcomes. This is because the shoulder is a shallow joint with great mobility. Replicating that mobility using an artificial joint is problematic. In addition, since replacing the joint does little to address chronic issues in the rotator cuff muscle, many patients still are left with pain. Finally, as one recent study showed, replacing shoulder joints in active patients younger than 55 is fraught with high failure rates, 40 percent by ten years.

If you have a torn or frayed rotator cuff with little osteoarthritis, surgery isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In one recent study, rotator cuff surgery wasn’t able to beat the outcomes of physical therapy. In addition, many times range of motion in the shoulder doesn’t return after rotator cuff surgery. Finally, rates of repeating the shoulder injury are high after a torn rotator cuff has been surgically repaired.

The shoulder stem-cell study published June 5, 2015, in the Journal of Pain Research used the Regenexx SD protocol and data collected at many Regenexx sites around the country from 115 procedures performed on 102 patients. Of note, the changes in the DASH score (the functional questionnaire commonly used for shoulder-surgery studies) of approximately 19 points was almost double the minimum difference in this score. Good changes in pain and percentage improvement were reported despite many of these patients being shoulder-replacement candidates.

Shoulder-replacement surgery is a major medical procedure whose results aren’t all that great. Rotator cuff surgery results aren’t spectacular either. The Regenexx study strongly supports skipping invasive surgery altogether in favor of a precise injection of the patient’s own stem cells.

“Regenexx Shoulder Stem-Cell Study Published” first appeared as a post on the Regenexx blog.